by Brittney Chan
“Ye did run well; what did hinder you that ye should obey not the truth?”
Y’all, it’s time for a moment of honesty, okay? I hate running. Like, there’s nothing remotely exciting for me about the activity. My endurance is very short-lived; no matter how hard I try I can’t get the “breaths-per-step” ratio down, and it’s easier to just not...am I right? I have a few friends that eagerly look forward to lacing up their shoes and spending hours exhausting their energy, but that’s not me. I get tired really quick. And silly me...I allowed one of my friends to convince me that signing up for the Savannah Bridge Run 5k was a good idea. 3.1 miles of pure torture! Okay, okay...so maybe the whole thing is not that dreadful, but I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not a great runner. I wouldn’t even label myself a good runner. And while I’m being honest, I might as well tell you the reason why: I’m not disciplined when it comes to training. It’s just that simple. Some weeks, I’m super dedicated and others, I don’t run at all! My life feels so busy that training for a 5k isn’t high on my priority list. I know I could reschedule things or get up an hour earlier, but I just don’t. And I’m the only one to blame...I get it. I’ll admit that my approach to exercise isn’t one to mimic and while I continually scold myself for being lazy in that area, my feelings towards the Race of Life are a lot different... In my devotions a few weeks ago, I ran across some verses talking about it, and I’d like to share my thoughts with you. Paul often used illustrations in his writings. He wrote of athletic analogies to give his readers a better understanding of what he was trying to say. He did that in his letter to the churches of Galatia. A few years had gone by since he ministered to them and at the time of this script, Paul had received word that their beliefs and practices were starting to change based on the teachings of someone else. If you happen to be in ministry in any way, I’m sure you can understand his dismay and frustration over the fact that his efforts were seemingly ruined by these outsiders. And it wasn’t just that Paul’s ministry was being trampled over; this other “gospel” had changed the people’s view of Paul, as well. At first, they loved him. They fully supported his ministry, and they allowed him to lead them (Galatians 4:12-14). Yet a little while later, Paul found himself at the center of skepticism and his address to the Galatians is saturated with his feelings of heartbreak. In the seventh verse of the fifth chapter, Paul says, “Ye did run well; what did hinder you that ye should obey not the truth?” Remember that athletic analogy I talked about earlier? This is it. Paul knew that his readers were familiar with Olympic games and other kinds of foot races. In these events, the runners were to stay in their assigned lanes; but cheaters would cut in and out as a way of obstructing the other competitors. Paul was writing to say that this is exactly what happened to the churches of Galatia. In his absence, they had been influenced by Judaizers; who thought that salvation came only through keeping the Mosaic laws of the Old Testament (Wiersbe, 1979). That was now legalism. Jesus Christ had brought salvation to Jew and Gentile alike; through His death, burial and resurrection. He was the fulfillment of the Law. This was grace. The Galatians and Apostle Paul were facing a very serious issue; one that threatened the foundational beliefs about the dispensation of Grace. Can you see the urgency of Paul’s letter now? There is so much we could talk about in Galatians (my study for this post took me all over the place!), but I want to remain focused on the question at hand and apply it to our lives today: what did hinder you that ye should obey not the truth? “What changed your mind?? What cut in on your child-like faith in God’s goodness?” 1 Peter 5:8 encourages us to be aware of the adversary’s vices because he will come against us like a roaring lion. You know, sometimes we act surprised by the different ways that the devil tempts us or our loved ones. Whether it is a sin of the flesh, the eyes or the pride of life; there is nothing new under the sun! He has been working against God’s kingdom since the day Adam and Eve fell. You’ll be running well; your eyes on the finish line - going to church faithfully, praying and praising vigorously - and then out of nowhere temptations cut in on you and slow down your stride. Was it the drama within your family unit? Was it a mental battle or issues outside your control? By no means am I belittling your particular struggle in life. Rather, I dare you to allow your consistency to be driven by the hope in 2 Cor. 10:3-4, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds...” Go ahead and read verse 5, when you get a chance. I have clung to these scriptures more times than I can count! Take courage in knowing that if you are a child of God, He is on your side and He is fighting for you. He is running with you! The Savannah Bridge Run was this past Saturday (Dec. 1st) and the craziest thing happened, y’all! I woke up early that morning. I put on the clothes that I’d anxiously laid out the night before. I drunk the breakfast shake that boasted of having 42 grams of protein (halfway hoping that all the extra nutrients would make up for my lack of preparation). Amanda and I rode downtown, we parted ways to get ready for our respective races and I went to the starting lineup. As soon as I saw a few friends, who were also participating in the 5k, I felt more at ease about conquering the Talmadge Bridge before me. The race started and we took off. As time went on, I ended up passing by a handful of other friends along the way. They were so encouraging and my disposition during the race ended up being a lot different than it was before it began! It was comforting and uplifting to see that I wasn’t doing it all alone. And this environment that I had surrounded myself in ultimately changed my attitude towards what I had committed myself to. When we rounded the corner and focused in on the finish line, a burst of energy shot through me and I wasn’t about to stop for anyone! I felt so victorious as I completed my race and someone handed me a medal signifying my accomplishments. (I’m pretty sure I tried to wear it for the rest of the day!)
I want to finish the Race of Life like that. And I want to look around and see that I’m still in it with the same people I started with, plus some! Don’t quit running with me.
At the beginning of the year, I started journaling a prayer for each month. The end of 2018 is near and my heart still echoes the thoughts for January: “God, let Your voice become the loudest one I hear and the one I’m most sensitive to.” In other words, I don’t want to see my struggles clearer than I see my Savior. I don’t want to allow distractions or desires to cut in on how well I run this Race. I have to resolve to remain focused on Who is waiting for me at the Finish Line.
Heavenly Father, This Christmas season, as our hearts fill with adoration for Your divine plan in providing salvation for all mankind, I pray that You would revive each soul with determination and tenacity. Let our lives be examples of ones well-lived. Keep us from getting weary in our well doing and strengthen our hearts for the Race ahead. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1979). Be free: An expository study of Galatians (8th ed.). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.